“It’s weird. Tourists are walking down the street in shorts and bikinis, enjoying a pint by the sea. Then you turn a corner and you’re in a refugee camp.”

Aid worker Nigel McGrath has spent the last six weeks in Greece. Thanks to everyone who is donating to our Europe Refugee Crisis Appeal, he has been helping refugees who are struggling to cope.

“The island of Kos has a population of around 30,000 people. There used to be around five Red Cross volunteers there, who had never worked on a major crisis. Suddenly boats began to arrive.

“When I was there, there were around 6,000 migrants and refugees on the island.

“At first the whole situation was chaotic with refugees, the police and the authorities. But it has become more peaceful.” 




“Every day the police pin a list of people who can register to a tree outside the police station. They let in around 20 people at a time to fill in paperwork and leave their fingerprints.”

Nigel and local volunteers gave people food parcels and hygiene kits with everything from toothbrushes, combs and sanitary towels for women to nappies and wipes for babies.

“If there was a family of five or six, they all had to join in to carry the boxes of stuff we gave them.”



When Nigel first arrived there were no toilets for the thousands of new arrivals – so you can imagine what conditions were like for hundreds of weary families.

He helped to set up 15 new chemical toilets. The Red Cross is the only charity that has been able to provide toilets on Kos.

Many people are bemused by what they find in these little huts. They have never seen a western-style toilet before with a seat and a lid.

Nigel and the team printed posters and leaflets in eight different languages to help people use the loos.


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© Chryssa Panoussiadou

“I spoke to a lot of people arriving or waiting on the island every day. Not one person said they wanted to go to the UK. They all wanted to go to Germany, Scandinavia or Holland.

“They had been promised by people smugglers that for around €700 and a trip in a dinghy they could start a new life. Syrian doctors, Pakistani builders – everyone was told they would pick up work easily. But of course, that’s just not true. Qualifications in one country don’t always translate to another.”

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A young family arrives in Kos


“I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” said Nigel. “I don’t know what will happen in Greece. New routes into Europe keep appearing and it’s difficult to predict where people will arrive, where they will move to and which borders will be open.

“For now the volunteers and the families who rely on them need all the help they can get.”